BREAD and circuses kept the people happy and distracted in the twilight of the Roman Republic just before the rise of the Roman Empire. Satirist Juvenal called it the panem et circenses (bread and circuses) way of governance: providing cheap wheat while mounting costly shows at the Coliseum to retain power. In today’s India there’s plenty of fun and games to distract people even if bread for the needy is drying up because of a new rule that excluded tens of thousands from getting subsidised foodgrains. But there is spectacle enough to divert attention from the daily reports of starvation deaths on the one hand and massive crony-capitalist scams on the other.
As details of one the biggest banking swindles came to light, a scandal involving one of the prime minister’s charmed circle of business friends, Narendra Modi was putting on another of his rockstar performances in Delhi, this time for the benefit of a stadium full of schoolchildren rounded up for advice on how to beat the exam blues. There was glitz, music, freebies and a strong dose of nationalism even if the children, who are about to write the board exams, got barely any tips on how to cope with the stress.
As details of one the biggest banking swindles came to light, Narendra Modi was putting on another of his rockstar performances in Delhi, this time for the benefit of a stadium full of schoolchildren rounded up for advice on how to beat the exam blues.
Modi’s extravaganzas where he charms audiences, usually non-resident Indians, with his potent mix of hyper nationalism and grand promises of a resurgent India are becoming a regular feature at home, too, as his government fails to tackle the deepening economic problems. But if there is one thing that his regime excels at it is managing public perceptions and making people believe that it is working for them instead of actually doing so. After all, Modi was able to persuade most Indians that the disastrous demonetisation exercise was for their good and in the national interest even though it deepened the economic crisis and inflicted needless hardship on the poor.
Keeping the citizenry distracted appears to be what the BJP’s ideological mentors, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh expects from Modi these days while it goes about quietly pushing its agenda of creating a Hindu India. Although it is widely known that the RSS has infiltrated practically every government department, academia and cultural organisations, recent interviews given by Hindutva scholar Shridhar D. Damle have revealed the extent to which the organisation is succeeding. In at least one crucial sector, education, the RSS is all set to capture the mind of the young, completing an ambitious project that started with schools several decades ago.
2014 election was fought not for Modi, according to Damle, but only because the RSS felt the time was right. Modi was only a by-product, groomed by the RSS well in advance because of his mass base.
Damle told The Telegraph of Kolkata: "What the media and others are ignoring is how skilfully and sublimely the RSS is working in the field of education. By 2024, it would have raised and readied a new generation of educated Indians who understand and believe in the philosophy of Hindutva. All the vice chancellors of major universities are partners in this project.”
It’s not as if the RSS went about this task clandestinely. In March last year, the RSS think tank Prajna Pravah had summoned 700 academics, including the vice chancellors of 51 universities, to a well-publicised workshop in Delhi to include an Indian perspective and a nationalist narrative in higher education. Prajna Pravah describes itself as "a nationwide intellectual movement rooted in Bharatiya ethos and traditions”. But few analysts bothered to follow up on the RSS’s surgical strike on higher education.
What is apparent is the tightening noose around universities where academic freedom is being stifled by rigid controls on what can be taught or even discussed. The ‘culture of protests’ is frowned upon and so is the innocuous practice of staging cultural festivals because that is supposedly alien to India’s real culture. The subversion is clearly visible in the way the globally related IITs or Indian Institutes of Technology function these days. For instance, IIT-Madras which was hosting a global conference on cancer research had featured a yoga guru as the chief guest until the US sponsor baulked at it.
This appears to indicate that Modi is expendable. Damle says unambiguously that Adityanath, the hardcore Hindutva priest who was made chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state in 2017, will be playing a larger role in the future.
Damle is co-author of classic The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism. Published in 1987, the book provided the first inside account of the parent body of the BJP since Damle has close connections with the RSS. A sequel to the book is in the works and Damle has made some startling disclosures about what is happening behind the scenes after Modi was swept to power. He says the RSS has now realised the importance of power and its benefits unlike in the past when it claimed to be a purely cultural outfit. It will not countenance losing power.
The 2014 general elections was only the second time the RSS is said to have actively taken part in the BJP campaign, the first being the post-Emergency elections in 1977. But the 2014 election was fought not for Modi, according to Damle, but only because the RSS felt the time was right. Modi was only a by-product, groomed by the RSS well in advance because of his mass base.
This appears to indicate that Modi is expendable. Damle says unambiguously that Adityanath, the hardcore Hindutva priest who was made chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state in 2017, will be playing a larger role in the future. What if the BJP loses the 2019 elections because of its poor record? The RSS is making sure all its forces are ready for the next big battle.
What if the BJP loses the 2019 elections because of its poor record? The RSS is making sure all its forces are ready for the next big battle.
Every one of its three dozen odd organisations covers important segments of the population from the tribal folk to the scheduled castes and it is a formidable line-up. The shakhas, or the daily meeting of RSS volunteers, now number close to 60,000, with the brotherhood having grown exponentially in the last two years. Here highly indoctrinated boys and men practise calisthenics and armed combat, swearing loyalty to the organisation and nation.
When RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat claimed last week that he could mobilise this force in three days flat unlike the Indian Army which would take six months, the opposition slammed him for defaming the army. They missed the woods for the trees. Bhagwat was merely stating a fact. The RSS presence in various trouble spots over the decades has proved his claim is no empty boast. That should have given the opposition food for thought.
The writer is a journalist based in New Delhi.
This article first appeared in Dawn.
Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.
Most shared Punjab Today articles:
SHEKHAR GUPTA'S HALF-BAKED TRUTHS
OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES - Karze Ne Layee Ikk Hor Kisan Di Jaan...
PNB Scam: Who is Nirav Choksi and what he is doing In the name of God?
Legal Status To Cannabis Usage: Can We Afford It?
Congress upset due to Priyanka’s cleavage on calendar
RENUKA'S LAUGHTER: Thank you for your guffaws. We needed this non-violent weapon.
RISE ABOVE PERSONAL VINDICATION, MR SURESH KHUMAR. FOR PUNJAB.
PAY YOUR INCOME TAX? What an idea, sir jee!
PADMAVATI - KARNI KYA & KATHNI KYA!
PADMAVAT – FIRST DAY, FIRST SHOW IN DAVOS
TV DEBATE EXPLODES WITH REVELATION ABOUT PB&H HIGH COURT
MR CLEAN to PAKKE DHEETH: How Punjab’s Congress hurt Brand Rahul Gandhi?
MANJIT SINGH CALCUTTA– THE DISSENTER
RANA GURJIT RESIGNS, BUT AMARINDER MAY HAVE LITTLE RESPITE
PUNJAB FARMERS AND IPL CRICKETERS - Finally, they can stand like equals
GOVT NOW DEFENDS MANSA FUCTION AND 6-FEET LONG CERTIFICATES
Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!
SELF GOAL BY AMARINDER GOVT ON VAISAKHI HOLIDAY
AMARINDER, BADALS, KHAIRA, AROOSA ALAM & A JOURNALIST OF TRIBUNE
BUT AAP WON'T GET IT. TUM TO THEHRE SHEHARI
AMARINDER, BADALS, KHAIRA, AROOSA ALAM & A JOURNALIST OF TRIBUNE
BUT AAP WON'T GET IT. TUM TO THEHRE SHEHARI
NAPOLEON PAINTING ROW: Punjab Govt insists on riding its high horse
PLAYING WITH SIKH SENTIMENTS: Punjab Govt’s ad depicts Tenth Sikh Master astride Napoleon’s horse
HOW DHUMAL WAS ASSASSINATED POLITICALLY, BY THE BJP
SUKHBIR IS RIGHT – On 97th anniversary – Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Where does this threat come from?
SHIROMANI AKALI DAL – Abhi to party shuru huyee hai...
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN PUNJAB: How Congress, SAD, AAP have framed issues
DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT
VIDEO - CLASS 5 STUDENT THREATENS REVOLUTION
CHAI PAR SUICIDE? Meet Mankar. Sorry, he’s dead. Modi met him, though - for Chai Pe Charcha
1984 - A RIOT OR A GENOCIDE? Controversy explodes in Canada again as Hardeep Puri tweets
PUNJAB VIDHAN SABHA: They are publishing a new book, so please go read an old one
JAANE KYA DIKH JAAYE! Rajasthan, where they write poems hailing Shambu Lal Regar
'IF NOT VANDE MATARAM, then will you salute Afzal Guru?'
LAHORE NU SALAAM – LAHORE CHODD AAYA - Prof. Randhir Singh
THE LOOT THAT RAJASTHAN COMMITTED – An insult bigger than Bollywood’s Padmawati!
TRIBUNE’S HARISH KHARE SHATTERS EDITORIAL SILENCE OVER CARAVAN REPORTAGE
THE DANGER OF RENAMING A COLLEGE
ARNAB GOSWAMI WATCHES PADMAWATI, KARNI SENA IS HAPPIEST
DESH CHORR DO – VANDE MATARAM MAN TELLS SIKH LEADER TO LEAVE COUNTRY
DYAL SINGH COLLEGE TO VANDE MATARAM MAHAVIDYALAYA - A DESIGN NEFARIOUS?
HONESTY CERTIFICATE TO MAJITHIA TRIGGERS CRISIS IN TRIBUNE
THE FINAL HONESTY CERTIFICATE: ISSUED BY THE TRIBUNE
WAS IT MEANT FOR TRUMP? OR US? – Bush, Obama said this on Diwali
WALKING IN STEP, HAND ON THE SHOULDER Aye Bhayee, Bina Dekhe Chalo.
CHALO, PATAAKE CHALAYEN – CM Amarinder Singh & Parkash Singh Badal Jee
NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty
ELECTION COMMISSION - YOU FAILED TO CONVINCE. TRY AGAIN.
THIS IS WHY ELECTION COMMISSION DID NOT ANNOUNCE GUJARAT POLL DATES – Decoding the mystery
BJP TO EDUCATE FARMERS ABOUT AGRI & RELIGION LINK – Will tell them Modi did so much
AYE BHAI, BINA DEKHE CHALO – Walking with the blind in Chandigarh
BAD, BAD WOMAN! – Punjab’s top playwright slams woman complainant against Langah
MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL – On Amod Kanth’s badge of shame
OPEN SALE AT GNDU – Have Rs 25,000? Get your compartment cleared. Rs 50,000 for two subjects
SUCHA SINGH LANGAH : KAMAAL JAARI HAI... Sucha Singh Langah wins, even in his darkest moments
ABEY TU BAHAR NIKAL, CHOWK MEIN AA – The 10-yard-radius protest
PATIALA, VIA PANCHKULA. HAIL DEMOCRACY! Halaat kharaab nahi hone chahiye!
PEHLU KHAN CASE – Will Govt Now Compensate The Magnificent Six? The Nation Needs to Know
MR HOME MINISTER, WILL YOU BE VISITING FAROOQ AHMAD DAR'S HOUSE?
THE RYAN DEBATE: HOW INDIA MISSED THE GREAT CCTV ANGLE? Not covered by cctv, so not covered by tv either
POLITICAL ECONOMY OF RETIREMENT AGE ROW – What’s wrong with retirement age policy?
THE GORAKHPUR DEAD SPEAK TO PUNJAB – From Patiala to Gorakhpur, the tale of the dead
WE WILL KILL 40-50 – Haryana BJP, Govt calculated death toll before firing first bullet
RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS – Panchkula says something stinking about its conscience
LET'S KILL PAASH – Dr Sumail Singh Sidhu on the importance of Paash
A DOKLAM IN EVERY FIELD: Farmers not only produce food. They produce peace.
SURGICAL STRIKE YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT: When Indian jawans killed everyone at Pak post
PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity
Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.